California Police Bust Suspected Meth Lab

Nov. 4, 2011
Authorities worked through Wednesday night to investigate and clean up the suspected drug lab.

A suspected Oxnard methamphetamine lab was busted this week during a multiagency investigation, authorities said Thursday.

The Ventura County Combined Agency Task Force was conducting a probation search Wednesday in the 1200 block of Isleton Place when members found glassware and chemicals consistent with a meth lab in the garage of a small apartment complex, officials said.

They called in a "clandestine lab" team from the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, said Michelle Gregory, a spokeswoman for the state Justice Department. Such teams have specialized training and equipment to test, clean up and dispose of materials involved in drug labs.

Gregory described the lab as a relatively small operation, capable of producing about 2 ounces of methamphetamine at a time. While the lab is suspected of producing meth, Ventura County sheriff's Sgt. Dwayne Heath said authorities this week were still testing the chemicals found at the location.

Authorities worked through Wednesday night to investigate and clean up the suspected drug lab, officials said. About a dozen people in the building were evacuated voluntarily because of the danger involved in moving the materials, Heath said.

The lab was not operational at the time, lessening the dangers, he said.

Working meth labs can be both toxic and explosive.

Authorities Wednesday seized about 1.5 ounces of methamphetamine and arrested Paul Arthur Fields, 39, officials said.

Fields had been arrested earlier Wednesday during a traffic stop on suspicion of possessing drugs, said Heath, a member of the sheriff's narcotics unit. That led to the probation search at the suspect's residence on Isleton, Heath said.

Fields was booked into Ventura County jail on suspicion of two felony drug charges and a misdemeanor allegation of being under the influence of a controlled substance, jail records show. He remained in custody Thursday in lieu of $100,000 bail. It was unclear whether Fields had a connection to the suspected lab, Heath said.

Meth seizures are down across the state, Gregory said. The suspected lab was the first such facility the Ventura County Combined Agency Team has investigated this year, Heath said.

The countywide task force includes members of the Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's Office, Oxnard and Simi Valley police departments and federal Drug Enforcement Administration. About a dozen members of the task force were involved in Wednesday's investigation, along with state law enforcement officials, Heath said.

Some neighbors expressed concern Thursday about the suspected lab.

"I feel insecure knowing that kind of stuff is going on in my neighborhood. Anyone would," said Efrain Islas, 24.

Additional arrests

In a related matter as part of their investigation into narcotics sales in Oxnard, authorities said they made three additional arrests.

Detectives said they received information that arrested Jesus Pena, 31, of Oxnard, whom they described as a documented gang member, was selling methamphetamine from a residence in the 300 block of Bryce Canyon Avenue. Surveillance was conducted and Pena was seen making a narcotics sale, authorities said.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Department said a signed search warrant was obtained for Pena and his residence.

Authorities said Pena was contacted as the passenger in a vehicle driven by fellow gang member, Alfredo Canchola, 32 of Oxnard. During the subsequent search, Pena was found to be in possession of approximately 6 grams of methamphetamine and 2 grams of cocaine, authorities said. Also found in the vehicle was a loaded 40 caliber handgun and a digital scale, authorities said. The search warrant at the residence revealed approximately half an ounce of methamphetamine, a scale and several items of gang attire, authorities said.

Pena and Canchola were arrested on allegations of possession for sale and transportation of a controlled substance, carrying a loaded handgun, possession of a controlled substance while armed, and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang, authorities said. Pena's mother, Gloria Vasquez, 61, of Oxnard was arrested on an allegation of possession and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

All three were booked into county jail, authorities said.

Staff writer Cindy Von Quednow contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 - Ventura County Star, Calif.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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